3:34pm Friday 18th July 2008
By Andrew Slaughter
All three town centres in my constituency have been causing controversy this month. The biggest fuss - appropriately - is over Shepherd's Bush where the giant Westfield shopping centre is due to open in November.
For the present it is the chaos caused by closed stations and dug up roads that is filling my inbox, but when what will be the third largest shopping mall in the country does open its doors, residents fear permanent gridlock, overcrowding of public transport and parking saturation.
Meanwhile Ealing traders are worried that Westfield will prove a better draw for shoppers, putting the Broadway Centre at risk. But at the same time residents are fearful that Dickens Yard will produce its own problems of overdevelopment in central Ealing. For my part I think Hammersmith & Fulham Council has allowed Westfield to expand without ensuring there is capacity to cope with the millions expected to flock there, but the sheer difficulty of getting there along the Uxbridge Road may prove a salvation for Ealing businesses.
But in all this commercial power play spare a thought for Acton - once again the Cinderella centre. All it got was another meeting to discuss the development framework for the town centre. Given its location, residential catchment area and strong community, Acton should be a thriving local shopping centre. But it has been let down time and again. The failure to regenerate the South Acton Estate, the biggest social housing area in west London, is a scandal. The failure of the council to develop the town hall site and the incompetence of organisations like Thames Water who regularly flooded the High Street have scarcely encouraged investment. Years pass and nothing seems to change. This is a terrible shame - there are highly motivated and professional organisations like Acton Business Forum and South Acton Residents' Action Group who are ready to shoulder responsibility for the revitalisation of Acton. What they need is better leadership from those in charge at Ealing Town Hall.
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